Bluegrass Institute responds to proposed pension plan

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For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Contact: Jim Waters @ 859.444.5630

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters issued the following statement regarding the proposal released today in Frankfort to address Kentucky’s pension crisis:

While the Bluegrass Institute is reviewing the much-anticipated plan released at a news conference this morning by Gov. Bevin, Senate President Stivers and House Speaker Hoover, we’re troubled more by what’s missing from this proposal than by the very modest changes it offers, changes for which there was much hype but little help for – and quite possibly additional harm to – hardworking Kentucky taxpayers in the future.

For example, an absence of any recognition of the practices of increasing benefits and then applying them retroactively – the main culprits in creating the unfunded liabilities in all the major retirement plans – means there also will likely be no safeguards against the same kind of actuarially and financially irresponsible practices in the future.

Also, the plan proposes allowing Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) beneficiaries to collect lavish sick-day benefits for at least five more years, which will continue to grow the system’s liability. It will also incentivize teachers to do what the administration and legislative leaders said their plan would address: push teachers to retire sooner than they otherwise would.

The sick-days’ policy deepens the state’s unfunded pension liability by offering a benefit enhancement that’s not actuarially established and properly pre-funded and ensures that TRS beneficiaries continue to reap more in taxpayer-funded pension benefits during their first year of retirement than they earned in their final year of employment.

This occurs because TRS beneficiaries not only receive a check for 30 percent of the value of unused sick days they’ve accumulated throughout their careers – they’re paid for up to 10 unused sick days of the 185 days they work per year – but they get to spike their pensions for a lifetime by applying that same amount to their retirement benefits. It’s a corrupt practice that needs to end immediately.

The 30-percent value of those days is determined on the retiree’s final – and usually highest – year of salary, even though the accumulation of days occurs each year, when the salary levels usually are lower.

We’ve also heard or seen nothing today about protecting taxpayers from future shenanigans by actuaries beholden to the systems, who offer false assumptions to supersize benefits for those in the system who pay them.

Finally, nothing in today’s comments or in the plan itself gives even a political nod toward making the system more transparent. If taxpayers are going to be asked to pay more for this system, they must know a lot more about the types and amounts of benefits they are funding.

An alternative plan offered by the Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team includes the creation of an independent actuarial oversight board whose members are not beholden to the pressures applied by politicians or the systems’ bureaucrats.

Frankfort’s politicians have been spending too much time in this pension debate wringing their hands over how to keep the political class and state workers – Kentucky’s largest voting bloc – happy while hoping taxpayers will consider the whole matter too complicated and complex to understand, much less engage about.

The message out of Frankfort is that we the taxpayers have no say in this matter and will be forced to continue to pay for these lavish benefits while also funding the increases that will come with forcing a level-dollar approach on payments.

Hardworking, taxpaying Kentuckians – many of whom already struggle to pay their bills and find decent benefits – also will be asked to believe this is “reform,” even if it means more money for government and less for their families.

While we hear the politicians blather on ad infinitum about the “moral obligation” we as a commonwealth have to those on the public dole, we’ve heard little about government’s “moral obligation” to protect the life, liberty and property of its tax-burdened citizens.

For more information and comment, please contact Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters at 859.444.5630 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell) or jwaters@freedomkentucky.com.

An Open Letter To: All Individuals Involved with Reworking Kentucky’s Academic Standards

Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 1 during the 2017 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session, Kentucky’s current education standards for English language arts and mathematics, which are currently cut-and-paste adoptions of the Common Core State Standards, are going through a change. However, it remains to be seen how dramatic a change will actually occur.

Part one of the review and development of Kentucky’s new reading, writing and math standards – an online public comment effort – has already been completed. As I discussed back in May, I have reservations about how this process, which was conducted online using Survey Monkey, seemed likely to produce few changes to the existing Common Core-based standards in Kentucky. People using the Survey Monkey had to shoehorn their suggestions around the existing standards. There was no practical way to suggest major changes with this limiting approach.

In any event, the next step in Kentucky’s standards reworking process is for new Standards And Assessments Review and Development Committees supported by several grade level specific (K to Grade 5, Grade 6 to 8, Grade 9 to 12) Advisory Panels to be formed and to start the detailed work of examining the academics our students really need to be successful in the ever more technically involved world economy. One of the new committees and its support panels will cover the English language arts areas and another group will handle the math standards.

So far, there has been no announcement about who will serve on these committees and panels or what their working sessions will look like. As statutorily created agencies, these committees should be subject to Kentucky’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, but again we have no details at this time.

Because I don’t think the Common Core has the right elements presented with the right timing to meet students’ needs, and because of my concerns about the Survey Monkey process and its almost inevitable outcomes, I put together an open letter that discusses what truly high quality standards look like in a high performance education system. I hope this letter eventually reaches all of the committee and panel members who will do the tough work to create the new standards called for in Senate Bill 1. However, since I think many others in Kentucky – and in other states as well – would benefit from this, I am making the open letter available online here: Standards Review Open Letter Sep17

Unringing the bell: why open meetings remedies are often unsatisfactory

COG2One of my first undertakings as director of the Bluegrass Institute’s Center for Open Government was an open meetings challenge to the Jefferson County Board of Education’s decision to conduct a board meeting in a private law office on the 28th floor of an office building in downtown Louisville.

The Open Meetings Law requires public agencies to conduct their meetings at times and places convenient to the public. We alleged that the board’s April 30 meeting violated the open meetings law because the meeting was conducted at an inconvenient location.

We cited legal authorities predating the enactment of the Open Meetings Law by 25 years and as recent as 2016  recognizing that a public meeting must be held in “a place from which no part of the citizens . . . may be excluded by reason of not feeling they may freely attend.”

Not surprisingly, we prevailed on this legal issue when it was presented to the Office of the Attorney General on appeal.

The attorney general was persuaded by  “common experience as well as the specific experience of” representatives of the Bluegrass Institute — who were unsuccessful in their attempts to gain entry to the downtown office building  on a subsequent Sunday afternoon —  concluding that “it [is] reasonable to suppose that an ordinary member of the public might have been discouraged from trying to attend a meeting.”

JCPS was not persuaded. WDRB reported that in responding to the open meetings decision, the board chair “criticized as ‘ludicrous’ the Bluegrass Institute’s claim that it found the doors of PNC Plaza locked when it tried to access the building on Sunday, July 9. ‘The only thing this group has done has guaranteed that any time there is a special meeting, even on weekends, that there will be a cost incurred by the taxpayers of Jefferson County.’”

In addition to identifying the alleged violation in our open meetings complaint, the law also required us to propose a remedy. We proposed that the Jefferson County Board of Education acknowledge its violation of the open meetings requirement that all public meetings be conducted at times and places convenient to the public.

Other than its dismissive comments to WDRB, the board remained silent.

Accordingly, on September 13 the Bluegrass Institute mailed a letter to the board “to demand compliance with the remedial measures [we proposed], which now bind the Jefferson County Board of Education, and written verification of compliance.”

Again, the board remained silent.

Therein lies the greatest frustration with the Kentucky Open Meetings Law. Unlike those agencies – which are few and far between – that acknowledge error and commit to a future course of compliance with the law, many agencies openly disregard their express statutory duties and the attorney general’s legally binding rulings.

And the minimal penalties that the law currently imposes do little to deter this misconduct.

In an open records appeal, the remedies for noncompliance are clear: disclosure of the wrongfully withheld records. And – since 2016 when the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s assessment of penalties and attorneys’ fees in excess of $1 million – a “liberal reading of those provisions aimed at the meaningful punishment of those who willfully obfuscate the public’s ability to examine non-exempt records.” 

In an open meetings appeal, the remedies for noncompliance are often gestures: an admission of error, an adjustment in practice, and an occasional attempt to publicly reconstruct discussions improperly conducted in secret. Training on open meetings is only valuable as a remedy if the trainer is thoroughly steeped in the law and its underlying policies and the agency members are truly receptive.

It is not valuable if the trainer actually believes that open meetings compliance is “all about the money.”

Nevertheless, the courts have twice shown a willingness to impose the harshest existing penalty in the Open Meetings Law on noncompliant public agencies in recent years. When an agency takes action that is not in “substantial compliance” with the Open Meetings Law, that action “shall be voidable by a court.”  In 2012, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s opinion voiding a contract for consulting services entered into by a school board and its departing superintendent when the board “entirely failed to comply with the law.”

One year later, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s opinion voiding a school board’s legal challenge to a recall petition for an ad valorem property tax based on the board’s failure to comply with the Open Meetings Law.

This was the remedy originally sought, but later withdrawn, by the Advocate Messenger in its successful open meetings challenge to the Danville Board of Commissioners’ secret discussion of the purchase of a building earlier this year. Had it not done so, that purchase might have been voided by the courts as well.

As for the Jefferson County Board of Education, the issue under discussion at its illegal April 30 meeting was nothing less than the candidates for interim superintendent. The board’s attitude toward the Bluegrass Institute’s legal challenge – and the attorney general’s legally binding conclusion that it violated KRS 61.820 – might not have been so cavalier had this matter proceeded to the courts and the courts, in turn, voided action taken at or resulting from that illegal meeting.

Perhaps it’s time to consider even harsher penalties – or at a minimum — equipping the public with the resources necessary to pursue open meetings disputes through the courts. Or perhaps it’s time public agencies wake up to the reality that “[t]he failure to comply with the strict letter of the law in conducting meetings violates the public good.”

Bluegrass Beacon: Storms squeeze the best out of us

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Storms bring out the best in our country and commonwealth while introducing us to heroes like Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his community.

Perez, a 34-year law enforcement veteran, could have called it in during Hurricane Harvey’s assault on South Texas.

Instead, he left home, as always, determined to report for duty on Aug. 27.

This dedicated officer didn’t make it, drowning in 16 feet of water while trudging toward his post.

Firefighters unfurled a large American flag outside Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston, while Perez’s son, Maverick, told hundreds of funeral mourners inside that his father was someone “we knew … was doing something big. He had a calling.”

Irma hero Sister Margaret Ann also was “doing something big” and wasn’t about to let downed trees stand in her way.

CBS Miami’s cameras caught up with the nun dressed in full habit, chainsaw in hand, clearing trees from the roadways around Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School, where she serves as principal.

The best part isn’t that Sister Margaret Ann grabbed a chainsaw, but that, as word of her efforts spread – a Miami-Dade Police tweet of the sister has garnered nearly 12,000 likes and more than 5,000 retweets and 442 comments as I write this column – it “spurred others in the community to pitch in clearing debris as well,” the station reported.

When America’s squeezed, it doesn’t run and hide. It reports for duty, grabs a chainsaw and stirs others to act.

When squeezed, what’s really inside spills out.

Statues, shootings and racial anger dominated the front pages … until America was squeezed, really squeezed.

Have you noticed that when America’s really squeezed, racism’s dividing lines and cynicism get replaced by courage, sacrifice and a caring spirit for all people come out and spill over in the face of the storm?

Squeezing isn’t limited to hurricanes in the South, either.

Sometimes it’s storms striking families in the North, like the DeKlyens of Wyoming, Michigan.

Before their storm, Nick and Carrie DeKlyen planned to grow old together while watching their five children grow up and start families.

Then, Carrie DeKlyen was diagnosed in April with an aggressive form of cancer.

DeKlyen enrolled in a clinical trial at the University of Michigan before discovering she was pregnant.

Doctors told her the pregnancy would have to be terminated if she wanted to receive cancer treatments.

She made her choice, giving birth on Sept. 6 via cesarean section while in a coma to Life Lynn DeKlyen before dying.

A storm may have squeezed the life out of Carrie DeKlyen, but what spilled out was, as a friend at her funeral described, “a legacy of love.”

Sometimes economic cyclones hit border states, like Kentucky, where a $40 billion-plus pension threatens our entire economic health and future.

As the squeeze tightens, what’s really on the inside of this commonwealth will manifest.

Asked during a recent Facebook Live Q&A session whether teachers concerned about potential future changes in their pension benefits might retire en masse, Gov. Bevin said: “If you happen to be a teacher who would walk out on your classroom in order to serve what’s in your own personal best interest at the expense of your children, you probably should retire.”

Bevin took heat for that part of the statement from many who ignored what he added: “And yet I know for a fact that almost all of you teachers that are watching this don’t think that way.”

The governor’s convinced and we should be hopeful that with a full pension-squeeze underway, the unity and willingness to work together for the common good we know in our spirit is at the heart of Kentucky will push out, be unfurled and on full display in the days to come.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

AP test taking rises in Kentucky

But, minority opportunity remains an issue

AdvanceKentucky remains important motivator for improvement in AP statistics

New performance results for Advanced Placement (AP) courses have been released by the Kentucky Department of Education, and there is some good news tempered by some continuing questions about equity and access in these numbers.

[Read more…]

Government by secret committee: a clear abuse of the public’s right to know

COG2In 2015 the Bluegrass Institute appealed the Kentucky Board of Education’s denial of an open meetings complaint to the Office of the Kentucky Attorney General.

There was nothing unusual in that act. The Kentucky Attorney General reviews multiple open meetings appeals each year.

What was unusual was the fact that an esteemed public body charged with developing policies for  “planning, coordinating, administering, supervising, operating, and evaluating the educational programs, services, and activities within the Department of Education” failed, in the first instance, to understand its longstanding duties under the Open Meetings Law, and refused, in the second instance, to acknowledge its obvious violation of the law when the Bluegrass Institute challenged its actions in an open meetings complaint.

What was that violation?

It was the board’s erroneous belief that a committee it created to “manag[e] and narrow[ ] the search for a firm to assist . . . in finding a new commissioner of education” was not a “public agency” as that term is defined in the Open Meetings Law, and that it could therefore conduct its meetings by private  telephone discussions.

In 15-OMD-155 the attorney general rejected this position relying, in part, on a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion issued in the eighties. The Court in Lexington Herald Leader v. University of Kentucky Presidential Search Committee analyzed the definition of “public agency” — as the term was defined in that era — and concluded that the exclusion of public agency committees from the application of the Open Meetings Law “would clearly thwart the intent of the law.”

The attorney general cited no less than ten earlier open records decisions in ruling for the Bluegrass Institute. This line of decisions recognized the status of committees of public agencies as distinct public agencies and their duty to comply with each and every open meetings requirement imposed on the agency to which they owed their existence.

The term “public agency” has included any committee, ad hoc committee, or advisory committee of a public agency since the earliest days of the Open Meetings Law. Currently, KRS 61.805(2)(g) defines the terms as “[a]ny board, commission, committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, advisory committee, council, or agency . . . established, created, and controlled by a ‘public agency’” as  otherwise defined in the law.

Nothing evokes greater surprise, and resistance, from public officials than the news that the agencies they serve cannot avoid the requirements of the Open Meetings Law by conducting the public’s business in secret committee meetings based on the erroneous assumption that the committees are not public agencies because they consist of less than a quorum of the members of the body that created them.

Their arguments for secret committees? Committee meetings encourage more candid and open discussion and promote efficiency.

But lawmakers and judges have rejected these arguments by defining “public agency” to include committees — by whatever name – and declaring that “the right of the public to be informed transcends any loss of efficiency.”

It seemed to come as a surprise to the members of the Frankfort/Franklin County Planning and Advisory Committee for Redevelopment of the Capital Plaza and Associated Area, a public agency that – to its credit — recently acknowledged its obligation to admit the public to its meetings, that its subcommittee must also adhere to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. In the course of its October 11 meeting, the committee announced that a subcommittee of its members would convene two days before its next regularly scheduled meeting to review proposals and narrow the field of potential consultants responsible for a redevelopment strategy.

When questioned about the public’s right to attend the subcommittee’s meeting, the committee expressed a willingness to admit the public but stopped short of acknowledging its legal obligations under the Open Meetings Law. Committee members indicated they would consult with the city attorney before conceding the point.

The city attorney’s review of the law can yield only one result. Based on the analysis found in 15-OMD-155, and the legal authorities on which is was based, there is no doubt that the committee and its subcommittee are public agencies.  They must comply with the requirements of the Open Meetings Law even though compliance may prove inconvenient or even inefficient.

In the final analysis, “the right of the public to be informed transcends any loss of efficiency.”

 

 

Dr. Gary Houchens: Achievement Effects of Scholarship Tax Credits

BIPPS scholar Dr. Gary Houchens has posted a nice discussion about the impacts of scholarship tax credits on student performance in other states. The quick message, these programs allow a tax credit when donors support private non-profit groups that give needy students scholarships to attend the K to 12 school that works best for those students.

Houchens points to improvements in student learning and college-going rates thanks to these scholarships, something Kentucky could really use. But, read his article to get the full message.

Bluegrass Beacon – Pension deliberations: Nothing but uncomfortable

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Legislators frequently grumble about Kentuckians’ lack of interest in, attention to and knowledge of complicated issues like the public-pension system.

Some observation about how “people’s eyes glaze over when I start talking pensions” usually accompanies such grievances.

But now, with the debate turning away from the usual, seemingly far-away discussions about impersonal pension-policy issues like ARC payments and investment returns to matters landing closer to home – how future benefits for current state workers are determined, for example – individual Kentuckians and citizen-groups are paying attention, weighing in and even seeking more information.

All of which makes the House of Representatives’ secret meeting on Aug. 29 bewildering.

The day following the release of long-awaited recommendations by PFM, the consulting group charged with auditing Kentucky’s troubled public-pension systems, the House closed its doors.

Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, explains: the political pow-wow was “for informational purposes only.”

Meeting secretly, Hoover said, would allow lawmakers to gather information from PFM consultants and state Budget Director John Chilton “without the media there.”

It would, he continued, “make it a more comfortable setting for them to ask questions.”

To try and verify this meeting was “for informational purposes only,” the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government filed a complaint requesting not only an acknowledgement by House leadership that open-meetings requirements were violated, but that it also “provide the public with a copy of any written record or audio or video recording of the closed session.”

Even if the recent secret meeting was limited to gathering information, why close doors?

What was said that an already underinformed citizenry would not have benefited from hearing?

What’s different about this pension-reform discussion compared to, say, reforms in 2008 and 2013 where, since the doors remained opened, all could witness the glad-handing and back-slapping accompanying empty claims of having fixed the system for decades to come only to discover a few short years later little was accomplished except delaying tough decisions while the retirement systems’ funding levels continued to slide?

Considering how little information has been available to taxpayers who pay the bills and hundreds of thousands of state workers and retirees who have no fingernails left while worrying about how Frankfort ultimately will respond to PFM’s report, shouldn’t elected representatives’ first meeting concerning its recommendations have been accompanied by flung-wide-open doors?

This wasn’t a private company’s board meeting where the agenda is driven by how to increase profits and satisfy shareholders.

These are elected representatives meeting to discuss the worst-in-the-nation pension crisis, which threatens funding for every government program and service that anyone from either side of the political aisle cares about and is burdened by liability that will require billions of our tax dollars to fix.

Why wasn’t this meeting televised from Pikeville to Paducah on Kentucky Educational Television (KET)?

What could be a higher priority for KET, for which taxpayers shell out more than $14 million annually, than covering such a critical gathering of policymakers concerning this severe threat to the commonwealth’s entire economic stability and future?

“Yes, but that would be terribly uncomfortable for the politicians.” shaky politically-consternated voices would claim in united knee-jerking reaction.

In view of what’s at stake should this legislature fail to take needed steps to ensure digging in Kentucky’s pension hole ceases, it must be nothing but uncomfortable.

This debate must be one of the legislature’s toughest, most tension-filled and, yes, unpleasant debates in its long history.

Reporters must be allowed on the floor to cover it; galleries must be opened for Kentuckians to witness it.

True government transparency requires citizens not only know the final score but behold the good, bad, maybe even some ugly during all nine innings.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

KPREP achievement gaps for whites minus blacks – High Schools

Over the past few days I’ve blogged about the problems with white minus black reading and math achievement gaps in Kentucky’s elementary and middle schools since KPREP testing started in 2011-12. Today, let’s look at the high school gaps.

Figure 1 shows you the white minus black proficiency rate gaps over time from the KPREP English II End-of-Course exams used in Kentucky’s high schools. The English II End-of-Course exam scores are also used for reading accountability in Kentucky’s high schools.

As we saw in the lower grades, things don’t look very good during the time these tests, which are part of the ACT’s Quality Core series, have been in use.

Figure 1

High School KPREP EOC Reading for Whites and Blacks w Gaps to 2017

As you can see, the white reading proficiency rate has been jumping up and down slightly since 2014. The new 2017 white reading proficiency rate of 59.6 percent is actually lower than previously posted rates for 2015 and 2016 and really isn’t much different from the 2014 rate, either.

For all intents and purposes, the white high school level reading performance in Kentucky hasn’t really changed in half a decade.

The rate of progress for black reading performance looks just about the same, except that the scores are much lower. With the 2013 and 2015 black reading scores both higher than the latest 2017 results, about the best you can say is black high school reading performance in Kentucky has also been flat for half a decade.

The achievement gaps are also problematic. While the 2017 white minus black high school reading proficiency rate gap is smaller than in 2015 and 2016, it is larger than the gaps for 2012, 2013 and 2014. That isn’t progress.

Basically, after six years of Unbridled Learning testing, the English II End-of-Course exams indicate there has been scant progress in reading in Kentucky’s high schools since the Common Core State Standards came along either for whites or blacks.

Figure 2 shows the high school math situation.

Figure 2

High School KPREP EOC Math for Whites and Blacks w Gaps to 2017

This math picture is far more sobering than the flat reading situation.

For starters, the white math proficiency rate in 2017 is not only lower than it was last year, but it is more than a percentage point lower than it was back in 2012. That is a bit less than just flat performance.

The math situation for blacks as of 2017 is far worse. In fact, the drop in the black Algebra II End-of-Course exam proficiency was so severe in 2017 that I double-checked with the Kentucky Department of education to insure there wasn’t a typographical error. There was no typo, unfortunately. That 9.4 point math proficiency rate drop from 2016 to 2017 is apparently real.

Even if we were to consider the 2016 score as abnormally high, the 2017 score is still well below the initial 2012 score of 24.4 percent proficiency and is well below the rate for all other years, as well. When you consider that well under one in five Kentucky black high school students met muster in Algebra II in 2017, this is a very sobering situation indeed.

Arguably, Kentucky’s blacks have gone backwards in math since Common Core came along.

The high school math gap situation is also problematic. The most recent white minus black high school math gap is by far the largest ever since KPREP math testing began in the 2011-12 school term. That for sure isn’t what Common Core and KERA promised, either. What makes the gap growth particularly troubling is that even though the white math proficiency rate dumped by more than three points between 2016 and 2017, the white minus black math gap still managed to increase dramatically.

[Read more…]

KPREP achievement gaps for whites minus blacks – Middle Schools

A few days ago I blogged about the problems with white minus black achievement gaps in Kentucky’s elementary schools since KPREP testing started in 2011-12. Today, let’s look at the middle school gaps.

Figure 1 shows you the white minus black gaps in KPREP reading over the time this Common Core-aligned testing program has been in use.

Figure 1

Middle School KPREP Reading for Whites and Blacks w Gaps to 2017

As you can see, the proficiency rates in reading for both whites and blacks have improved, but the whites have made more progress. As a result, Kentucky’s 2017 middle school reading achievement gap is larger than for any earlier year.

Furthermore, fewer than one in three black middle school students is reading at the proficient level as of 2017, which I must remind some is 27 years after the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA) was passed with promises to deal with this problem.

Now, Figure 2 shows the middle school math situation.

Figure 2

Middle School KPREP Math for Whites and Blacks w Gaps to 2017

Figure 2 clearly tells a much more sobering picture for math than the rather somber gap story in Figure 1 for reading. First, both white and black scores either went stagnant or into decline in 2017. That isn’t what Common Core promised us.

The gap situation is also problematic. The most recent gap is the highest ever since KPREP math testing began in the 2011-12 school term. That for sure isn’t what Common Core and KERA promised, either.

Given that scarcely more than one out of two white middle schoolers in Kentucky is proficient in math and less than one out of four black students passed muster on the KPREP, these faltering results for 2017 are particularly unsatisfactory. With foreign competition lining up to swamp our kids if we don’t get them much better educated, Kentucky cannot afford to allow such meager performance and slow rates of progress to continue.

Technical Information:

All scores in Figures 1 and 2 came from the Kentucky School Report Cards for the state for the years listed. The specific data came from the Data Sets section, ASSESSMENT_KPREP_LEVEL link.